Tax Foundation

Last updated

Tax Foundation
MottoEducating Taxpayers Since 1937
FormationDecember 5, 1937;81 years ago (1937-12-05)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Type Think tank
Headquarters1325 G Street NW, Suite 950
Scott A. Hodge

The Tax Foundation is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, founded in 1937, that collects data and publishes research studies on U.S. tax policies at both the federal and state levels. [1] The Foundation's stated mission is to "improve lives through tax policy research and education that leads to greater economic growth and opportunity." [1] The Tax Foundation is organized as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit educational and research organization.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States and a Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

A think tank or policy institute is a research institute/center and organization which performs research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, political strategy, economics, military, technology, and culture. Most policy institutes are non-profit organisations, which some countries such as the United States and Canada provide with tax exempt status. Other think tanks are funded by governments, advocacy groups, or corporations, and derive revenue from consulting or research work related to their projects.

Taxation in the United States taxes are imposed in the United States at each of levels; taxes on income, payroll, property, sales, capital gains, dividends, imports, estates and gifts, as well as various fees

The United States of America has separate federal, state, and local governments with taxes imposed at each of these levels. Taxes are levied on income, payroll, property, sales, capital gains, dividends, imports, estates and gifts, as well as various fees. In 2010, taxes collected by federal, state, and municipal governments amounted to 24.8% of GDP. In the OECD, only Chile and Mexico are taxed less as a share of their GDP.


The Tax Foundation was founded in 1937 by a group of prominent businessmen in order to "monitor the tax and spending policies of government agencies". [2] [3] It is generally critical of tax increases and high taxation. [4] [5] [6] The organization is organized into three primary areas of research, carried out by the Foundation's Center for Federal Tax Policy, [7] the Center for State Tax Policy [8] and the Center for Legal Reform. [9] The group is known for its annual reports such as Facts & Figures: How Does Your State Compare, [10] which was first produced in 1941, [11] and its "Tax Freedom Day" brochures, [12] which it has produced since the early 1970s.

Tax Freedom Day is the first day of the year in which a nation as a whole has theoretically earned enough income to pay its taxes. Every dollar that is officially considered income by the government is counted, and every payment to the government that is officially considered a tax is counted. Taxes at all levels of government – local, state and federal – are included.


The Tax Foundation was organized on December 5, 1937 in New York City by Alfred P. Sloan Jr., Chairman of the General Motors Corporation; Donaldson Brown, GM Financial Vice President; William S. Farish, President of Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (Exxon); and Lewis H. Brown, President of Johns-Manville Corporation, who later became the first Chairman of the Board of The Tax Foundation. [2] The stated goal of the organization was "to monitor the tax and spending policies of government agencies". [3] Its offices were located at 50 Rockefeller Plaza and later 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

General Motors American automotive manufacturing company

General Motors Company, commonly referred to as General Motors (GM), is an American multinational corporation headquartered in Detroit that designs, manufactures, markets, and distributes vehicles and vehicle parts, and sells financial services, with global headquarters in Detroit's Renaissance Center. It was originally founded by William C. Durant on September 16, 1908 as a holding company. The company is the largest American automobile manufacturer, and one of the world's largest. As of 2018, General Motors is ranked #10 on the Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.

Donaldson Brown Financial executive/corporate director/DuPont/General Motors Corporation

Frank Donaldson Brown was a financial executive and corporate director with both DuPont and General Motors Corporation. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 1902 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. He did graduate studies in engineering at Cornell University and joined DuPont in 1909 as an explosives salesman.

William Stamps Farish II was a pioneer in East Texas oilfield development, president of Standard Oil and a founding member and president of the American Petroleum Institute. He was a member of the influential Farish family.

The Tax Foundation's first project was a successful effort to stop a tax increase in Westchester County, New York, where they provided research and analysis (including an "Expenditure Survey" of state spending) to local activists. [3] By 1943, the Tax Foundation had helped set up taxpayers associations and expenditure councils in 35 states. [3]

During World War II, Tax Foundation research emphasized restraining government spending domestically to finance wartime expenditures. In 1948, the Tax Foundation opened an office in Washington, D.C., and in 1978 relocated there completely. [3] Its research and analysis has historically emphasized publicizing federal and state financial information, arguing against the use of tax systems for "social engineering," and urging "broad bases and low rates" tax reform. [3]

Beginning in 1990, the Tax Foundation "operate[d] as a separate unit" of Citizens for a Sound Economy. [13] By July 1991, it was again operating as an independent 501(c)(3) organization. [14]

Citizens for a Sound Economy

Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) (1984–2004) was a conservative political group operating in the United States. It was established in 1984 by Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries. Ron Paul was appointed as the first chairman of the organization. The CSE described itself as "hundreds of thousands of grassroots citizens dedicated to (1) free markets and limited government, and (2) the highest level of personal involvement in public policy activism."

Beginning in 2009, the Tax Foundation's offices were located in the National Press Building in Washington, D.C. [15] In 2015, the organization moved to its current location on G Street. [16]

Goals and principles

The Tax Foundation states that its research is guided by what it calls the principles of sound tax policy: simplicity, transparency, neutrality, and stability. [17]

Tax Foundation research is generally critical of tax increases, [4] [5] [6] [18] high business taxes, [19] excise taxes, [20] tax preferences for the housing industry, [21] and use of tax credits (which the Foundation views as "picking winners and losers"). [22] [23] The Foundation has spoken favorably of efforts to balance the federal budget with tax reform and significant spending cuts, such as the Bowles-Simpson plan, [24] the Ryan Plan, [25] and the Wyden-Coats plan. [26]

Organizational overview


The Tax Foundation describes itself as an "independent tax policy research organization". [1] They are cited in the media as a nonpartisan or bipartisan organization, [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] and are also described as business-friendly or conservative. [35] [36] [37]

Board of directors

As of 2019, the organization's board of directors consists of David P. Lewis (Chairman), James W. Lintott (Treasurer), Philip English, Dennis Groth, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Stephen Kranz, Sarah McGill, David Nicholson, Pamela F. Olson, Tom Roesser, and Scott Hodge (Tax Foundation President). [38]


The Tax Foundation accepts grants from foundations, corporations, and individuals. It does not solicit or accept funds from government sources. [39] The Tax Foundation has earned a 3 out of 4 star financial rating and 4 out of 4 star accountability and transparency rating from Charity Navigator. [40]

2017 [41] $5,115,594$4,548,092
2016 [42] $4,274,002$4,178,093
2015 [43] $3,557,681$3,722,271
2014 [44] $3,675,132$2,971,778
2013 [45] $2,953,060$2,469,668
2012 [46] $2,192,620$1,900,821
2011 [47] $1,885,201$1,768,828
2010 [47] $1,854,135$1,925,936


The Tax Foundation publishes several major studies, including Options for Reforming America’s Tax Code, which details the economic and revenue impact of over 80 potential changes to the U.S. tax code. [48]

The group uses its Taxes and Growth (TAG) macroeconomic model to simulate the effects of tax policies and produce conventional and dynamic estimates of potential changes in revenue, GDP, wages, employment, and the distribution of the federal tax burden. [49] The TAG model is a "neoclassical, comparative-statics economic model coupled with a tax return simulator". [50] The economic model estimates supply of labor and cost of capital based on marginal tax rates calculated by the tax return simulator. [50]

Since 2014, the TAG model has been used to analyze legislative and campaign tax proposals, including the Tax Reform Act of 2014 proposed by Dave Camp [51] , plans put forth during the 2016 presidential campaigns [52] [53] , the House GOP’s 2016 Tax Reform Blueprint [54] , and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. [55] [56]

Since 2013, the Tax Foundation has offered guidance to same-sex married couples filing income taxes at the state level, where local laws recognizing same-sex marriage can vary considerably. [57] [58]

Every year, the Tax Foundation calculates and announces Tax Freedom Days in the United States. These studies have been criticized by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a progressive think tank, and in turn the Tax Foundation has responded to or criticized CBPP reports. [59] [60] [61] [62] However, the two groups have worked together on analysis of the marriage penalty in the US federal income tax. [63]


In a column for The New York Times blog The Upshot, Josh Barro, a former Tax Foundation employee, criticized the group’s approach to scoring the Rubio-Lee tax plan as producing “implausibly rosy results.” [64] The Tax Foundation published a response to these criticisms, stating that their model results were "in line with analysis done by other mainstream economists for similar tax changes". [65]

In opinion editorials for the New York Times, economist Paul Krugman has characterized the Tax Foundation as "not a reliable source" while criticizing a report by the Tax Foundation comparing corporate tax rates in the United States to those in other countries. [66] Krugman has also accused the Tax Foundation of "deliberate fraud" in connection with a report it issued concerning the American Jobs Act. [67] The Tax Foundation has published various responses to Krugman's criticisms. [68] [69]

See also

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